Land in Watsonville and Hollister
Years farming: Andy has farmed
for the last 20 years in various capacities from
farmworker to owner, from large farm to small.
Total acres farmed: 25
Key people: Andy, farmer and
rave king; Julia, farm wife, CEO, mom, email elf,
etc.; España, foreman, tractor driver,
all around repairman; Jose España, head
harvester; Lourdes Duarte, head vegetable packer
Range of crops: greens, root
crops, tubers and herbs, berries, peppers, tomatoes,
garlic, melons, artichokes, and more besides that.
Marketing methods: CSA and 1
farmers market, with a small number of carefully
selected restaurants that pick up at the farmers
Soil type: silty loam
Regenerative practices: cover
cropping, crop rotation, fallowing
Length of season: all year
Posted August 3, 2004: The first time I
saw garlic scapes they looked like question marks, and felt
like them too.
A scape is the flower stalk of the stiff-necked garlic. “What
is wrong with my garlic?” I wondered.
I was used to growing a soft-necked variety of garlic called
California Early White that doesn’t flower. California
Early White is the garlic that made Gilroy, a town close by
my farm, semi-famous as the self-proclaimed “garlic
capital of the world.”
California Early White is mild as garlics go, and stores
well. Each bulb contains a fist full of cloves of varying
sizes. Despite the hassle a cook faces in peeling all the
tiny cloves California Early White garlic remains a chain-store
favorite, even if a lot of it now comes from China and Mexico.
Since garlic is labor intensive, imported garlic from the
Third World has made it more difficult for domestic producers
to get a decent price for their crop, even in the farmers
market. Peeled garlic is popular with restaurants and consumers
too lazy to shuck the small cloves of California Early White
garlic -- and they don’t seem to mind the canned flavor.
But “value added” means capital intensive, and
for small growers like myself that is not an option.
To make my way in a market increasingly dominated by importers
and processors I switched gears and began selling California
Early White garlic in its scallion stage as spring garlic.
The large numbers of tiny cloves per head make this garlic
a perfect choice for sowing densely and bunching young like
green onions. But the season for spring garlic is short --
it gets woody with the longer days. Seed catalogues promote
red, stiff-necked garlics as having bigger cloves packed with
flavor. “This sounds like me,” I thought, “big,
red in the face, and stiff necked.” The selling point
would be flavor, I decided, and the convenience of peeling
The eruption of flower stalks had me panicked because I feared
the bulbs wouldn’t size up. I snapped the curly-que
flower stalks off in an attempt to force any of the plants
remaining energy into the bulb. An aroma of fresh garlic made
me hungry and caused me to eat a stalk or two. They were good.
A little research taught me the Chinese had been cooking
garlic stalks for thousands of years, so I began marketing
my prunings as “garlic snakes.” The flower stalks
do coil suggestively like serpents. My marketing gimmick didn’t
turn out to be too crass. First of all, it worked. Customers
lined up to buy the buds I had to prune anyway. Secondly,
even the folks who were afraid to eat garlic snakes crowded
around the stall to look at the weird vegetables and drew
more customers in by appealing to their herd instinct. Lastly,
Allium sativum var. ophioscorodom, the scientific name for
the red stiff-necked garlic means “cultivated snake
garlic,” so I’m not even lying.
The first curling stalks of stiff-necked garlic flowers made
me question my future with garlic. Selling “snakes”
gave me an answer I could taste. We will round out the year
for garlic sales with scapes. Cured, dried bulbs of garlic
can last through February after which we sell “spring
garlic”. When the garlic scallions go to stick we can
sell “snakes”. As the snakes stiffen we sell “fresh,”
uncured garlic bulbs, followed again by the papery dried garlic
heads. That, at least is the hope I have in selling garlic
But, as Eve found out, you can’t trust everything a
Rollin' While the rest of the world savors
basil and tomatoes, Andy gets pumped up to plant
parsnips. It's all part of the cycle.
July 2, 2004
Truckin' Stop! Put that plastic truck (or
other piece of marketing swag) down and back away.
Think smart promotion to keep your small farm
in the public eye.
June 2, 2004
Carrots It's astounding to what uses Andy
Griffin's farmers' market customers will put his
kinky, crooked carrot culls. Every carrot has
May 11, 2004
I smart? Carelessness, poor planning and neglect
leads Mariquita's Andy Griffin to discover the
true value of a strange old heirloom crop--black
April 20, 2004
off to the many sombreros of a farmer Quack
lawyer, truck driver, fake chef, and borderline
carnival barker: all in a day’s work for
a farmer like Andy Griffin … and once in
a while he gets to contemplate nature.
April 2, 2004
watermelon radish: Conspiracy from the left or
the right … or just a darned good heirloom
daikon? Those were among the suspicions raised
by this ancient veggie at a recent event in Santa
Cruz designed to introduce consumers to local
March 4, 2004
the influx of cheap Chinese garlic—even
in to Gilroy, the “Garlic Capital of the
World”—Mariquita Farm grows green
spring garlic, and banks its garlic dollars long
before the garlic festival in July.
February 13, 2004
riders of the purple goosefoot In Watsonville,
California, the founders of Mariquita CSA discover
the value of this antique cousin to spinach.
March 23, 2004
is the time for shameless self-promotion He
can't plant, cultivate or harvest--the fields
are a swamp--but Mariquita's Andy Griffin can
sell shares and hustle publicity.